Mathilda (taiyou_to_tsuki) wrote,

December Talking Meme - Day 6: Favourite Companions

I have internet in Uppsala!

The internet-free weekend was pretty hectic without any distractions-- looked for Christmas presents in town on saturday before gf went with me back to Uppsala. Most of yesterday was spent cooking and baking (look at these nerdy gingerbread cookies we made!. But I had fun. Yesterday I went to Kalmar nation's choir's Christmas consert and had dinner at an Indian restaurant with friend from the dorm. (∪ ◡ ∪)

I'm more than a week behind on questions (ugh). Let's see how many I manage before I have to go study some more and make dinner...

lost_spook asked me about my favourite companions. I wasn't sure how to go about this question - did I want to mention my favourite favourite/s, or just companions that I like better than others? Doctor Who is a cornucopia of memorable characters. At the same time I'm not sure where to start. I considered doing my favourite companion for every Doctor, but that would get very long very fast and I'm not even sure who to choose in some cases.

So. My absolute favs and a couple of runner-ups.

*Clears throat*

*Glances at icon*

I don't think anyone is even remotely surprised. Liz Shaw has been with me for quite some time now; Doctor Who and the Silurians was the fourth Classic serial I ever watched, and the second one with Three, who would subsequently become My Doctor, and she remains one of my favourite companions. Part of this is her strong personality-- she's sarcastic, confident in her abilities and a touch proud. Analysing alien objects, synthesising a cure for a Silurian virus and snarking at the Brigadier like she got paid for it are only some of the things she contributed to the show.

Sadly, she only stayed around for one season, which is perhaps why she seems to be best remembered for her departure—or rather, the lack of it. A lot of people seem to be understandably upset about this, which I can understand, but actually the way she leaves is part of why I like her so much. As I see it, her departure says a lot about her character.

Liz Shaw resigned from UNIT and went back to her research at Cambridge. To put it more succinctly: Liz left the Doctor because she had better things to do than trail after him. She was reluctant to work with UNIT from the very beginning; she already had an “important research project” going on at Cambridge, and to make matters worse she ends up as an assistant to the Doctor, who is the organisation’s scientific adviser – a position the Brigadier originally approached to offer her. With this in mind, it was probably inevitable that she would go back sooner or later.

While one of the inspiring things about Doctor Who is how the companions grow through their meeting with the Doctor (and sometimes the other way around), there’s also something wonderfully refreshing about a companion who is so secure in herself and what she’s chosen to dedicate her life to that she doesn’t change at all. Liz’s number one priority is her academic work; her acquaintance with the Doctor is a valued relationship, but it doesn’t change who she is or where she’s going in life. Dedication that strong to science (or any career) is fairly unusual for female characters, who are frequently criticised when prioritising work over personal relationships, both in fiction and in real life.

And while Liz is my fav, I don't deny that Jo suits the third Doctor much better; her optimism and occasional naivety complements his bitterness and childish grumpyness. Jo forces him to act more adult, whereas Liz sometimes comes off as a babysitter. In a way, they're too similar to have a compelling enough interaction without any kind of character development.

The other companion closest to my heart is Leela, in a way I'm not sure how to begin to describe. Leela is a character who could have been handled so badly - the idea of a civilised, Renaissance man like the Doctor taking on a young "savage" woman to teach her about science and show her the universe has not-very-subtle colonial subtext - but in this particular case the writing team managed not to drop the ball. Because what makes Leela so brilliant is, of course, the fact that she barely changes at all.

Leela is unapologetically herself. Sure, she learns stuff, and she can act "civilised", but it's always her own prerogative and she steadfastly refuses to be patronised or made to feel she's somehow lesser because of her heritage. She's intelligent, albeit not in the same way the Doctor is. From her introduction, she's ferociously independent; her curiosity wasn't spurred by meeting the Doctor, and he doesn't even want to take her with him. She literally runs past him into the TARDIS (who has better taste, and takes off) when he refuses to let her travel with him.

She can also kill you in at least 50 different ways probably.

Honestly, Leela is probably one of the most unique companions on the show; her complete lack of familiarity with technology on a sci-fi show, combined with a skillset that's very out of place on Doctor Who itself (as a show that's always promoted intelligence and diplomatic solutions to conflicts over brute force) and in turn creates a recurring moral conflict (Leela kills people without remorse if she deems it necessary, which the Doctor abhors, but they can both be shown to be in the right). Finally, her deep belief in herself and security in her own identity is very rare to see, especially in female characters, and it's both an immense strength and a potential flaw. Whenever she is reduced to her revealing outfit or (admittedly very) nice legs, I see red.

Remarkably, Leela is one of my favourite companions paired with one of my least favourite Doctors. I never really got into Four for a variety of reasons, but Leela managed to make him a lot more enjoyable to me. She's that good. :P

Some runner-ups: Tegan, who is loud and Gets Shit Done but also young and sometimes vulnerable. She'd be higher up if I was more fond of the Davison era overall, I think. Evelyn, whose relationship with Six is touching and engaging in a way that's rarely so well-written. Erimem, who suffers from an appalling amount of bad audios, but who has a really lovely relationship with Peri. Lucie Miller, who I don't think about nearly enough but am always reminded of exactly how delightful she is when I re-listen to her audios. I've become surprisingly fond of Steven, who suffers from a lot of lost episodes and a somewhat undefined personality on tv, but who has developed tremendously in the Companion Chronicles. Izzy Sinclair has one of the best character arcs in the series, in my personal opinion. And I love Jo, and Ace, and Victoria, and Mel...

... I love a lot of companions. But some I'm more fond of due to their relationship with other characters, or the stories they appear in. Liz, and especially Leela, are dear to me because of who they are more than most others.

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Tags: december talking meme, doctor who
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